Monday, March 20, 2017

Dread & Water: Review

Dread & Water (1976) is the seventh entry in Douglas Clark's police procedural series featuring Superintendent George Masters and Inspector Bill Green and their crack team of investigating officers. Each of these novels presents the team with unusual murders and/or circumstances to test their mettle. Death by diabetes, induced food poisoning, timed fires, gaseous arsenic poisoning and more are among the unusual cases Masters and company have tackled in my previous encounters with Clark's work. Clark worked full-time for a pharmaceutical company and he used knowledge gained in his work, both information about drugs themselves and medical conditions in general to inform his fictional crimes.

This case takes the team to the Pottersby Research Centre in Berkshire. Three young nuclear physicists--all from the same research team--have met their deaths while on weekend climbing trips. Each man was climbing what should have been relatively easy terrain for men of their experience, but all seemed to simply slip and fall. The first death was immediately ruled an accident. The second met a more intense scrutiny, but the doctor called in could find nothing suspicious. But when the third man falls and is taken to hospital--just barely hanging on to life, Master's team is sent to investigate what is most certainly going to be a third deadly accident. Their brief is to determine if these are just coincidences or if these accidents have been arranged.  

As they begin questioning scientists at the research facility, reviewing a home movie of one of the expeditions, and examining the equipment, they discover that each man used the same equipment pack--number six. There was also a fourth man (also from the same research team) who barely escaped a similar fall. Used to taking a quick nip of brandy when feeling out of sorts, he resorted to his flask when a bout of dizziness hit him and managed to settle himself enough to set his piton to hold him until the dizzy spell passed. That's too many coincidences for Masters and Green and they set out to hunt a murderer in earnest.

This is another excellent installment in this police procedural series. Clark gives us a good taste of the nitty-gritty of police routine (especially with interviews) without making the routine boring. It's always a pleasure to see Masters or Green interview a somewhat hostile or unconvinced witness and manage to put them in their place and/or maneuver them into revealing more than they planned. And, as I've mentioned before, I always enjoy the camaraderie and rapport of Masters' team. Even though younger member come and go (as they receive well-earned promotions), each new member fits in well without being a cookie-cutter underling just filling in a position. Each character is well-defined and brings something different to the mix. 

My one quibble with this case is that Masters comes upon the solution by accident. When he asks for information on a certain subject from the research librarian, she brings him an additional article just because she thinks it might be useful. Yes, of course that could happen in real life, but when a strong theme in the investigation has been "too many coincidences" it's interesting that "just by coincidence" the librarian brings Masters just the article he needs...which he didn't ask for. 

Beyond this minor point, the novel is highly enjoyable. I haven't tired of the Masters and Green team and it doesn't seem to matter that I'm reading these in an absolutely random manner (using them wherever they fit in the zillion challenges I do). For those who enjoy a good British police procedural and can manage to get their hands on any of the series, these come highly recommended.  ★★★★

[Finished reading 3/15/17--I'm playing catch-up on my reviews.]

This fulfills the "Rope" category on the Silver Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

No comments: